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karl@houstonmedia.com (Bradford, West Yorkshire, UK)

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Gold Dust: Live At The Royalty Theater
Gold Dust: Live At The Royalty Theater
Price: CDN$ 17.43
20 used & new from CDN$ 7.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Music critic Karl Dallas tells the untold story of this CD, May 31 1998
Prospecting for Gold Dust - the untold story It's a miracle this album ever came out. The story begins with Marcel Rodd, whose Saga records label had been the first to feature the then undeveloped but already exciting voice of the young Sandy Denny. In the 70s I was publishing Folk News, and Rodd approached me to ask if I could help him find some of the exciting new folk talent everyone was telling him about. He turned down every one of the fairly trad performers I recommended to him, until I remarked that Sandy was emerging from pregnancy and childbirth to go back on the road, and would be concluding her tour in London in November. Sandy's decade-long deal with Island Records had come to an end, and so she might be available. He jumped at the chance to get her back on to his label, and asked me to set it up. I hired the Fairport recording genius, John Wood, to master the concert and one Sunday night he was ensconced in the Island mobile off Kingsway, getting it all down. But when we played back the tapes . . . disaster! There was a nasty whistle right across every track. Where it had come from, nobody could say. Woodsie assured us he could remove it, but Rodd was adamant: he wasn't going to pay for them, so the tapes languished. I had the monitor mix of the event, with all the dropping in and out as Woodsie punched his buttons, and I came to love it, warts and all. Because it's got to be admitted that these performances weren't Sandy's best. She'd had a bad cold for most of the tour, and at this final concert she was very, very tired. Her voice showed it. Her relationship with Trevor, always stormy at the best of times, was not going well, and she wasn't happy. However, Sandy had always been able to sublimate her emotional feelings into her music, and this event was no different from others, when she could tear out of her very soul music to touch the heart like no one ever has, before or since. But after her death, when Trevor was assembling the excellent 'best of' album, I urged him to include at ! least some tracks from the concert. He persuaded Island to buy the tapes, gave them a listen, and rejected them as not being good enough to stand as a memorial to her work. I thought he was wrong then, and I still do, on listening to this very cleaned-up and slightly 'improved' (with overdubbed backing vocals from Simon Nicol and Chris Leslie) CD. Frankly, my grotty monitor mix has Sandy's voice more prominent (whatever happened at the beginning of I'm a Dreamer, in which she sounds as if she's singing the theatre foyer?) Even so, listening to them again still makes my blood run cold, and the hairs stand up at the back of my head. Singing, just singing, was never meant to be as intense as this. I can hardly bear to listen. When I was assembling The Electric Muse (the original four-album set with the Shirtsleeve Studio artwork, not the travesty 're-release' put out last year by Castle Communications), David Betteridge of Island gave me privileged access to the Island vaults, to listen to a whole lot of unreleased product (including the never-released Maverick Child single from Fairport VI, with Roger Hill on the vocals). Alongside brilliant alternative readings of stuff like the inevitable Sloth and a great Calvary Cross, were some traditional renditions of ballads like Lord Bateman, with a whole range of backings, including Steve Winwood on keyboard on one version. Unfortunately, Sandy's was merely a guide track for the musicians, not even properly on mic. I urged her several times to go back and record the vocals properly, but she said she regarded it as past history, something she couldn't get to work. However, those tracks are still there, somewhere, wherever Polygram (or Seagram's whisky, the label's new owners) have stashed them. Who knows, someone might be able to work a miracle and bring her vocals to centre stage. They can do wonders with electronics, these days. Oh well . . . perhaps not.

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